Business Day column: Racists do not trust black people with full land ownership

19 April 2017
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To understand what the trendy left racists who dominate land policy discourse have in mind, imagine a post-apartheid mixed marriage couple who buy neighbouring properties. Under proposed land policy, the white wife’s land will be confiscated; the black husband’s respected. Hers will be presumed stolen by her; his justly acquired. They will be racially classified long after the supposed abolition of race classification. Race will determine dispossession in nonracial SA.

Racism starts by assuming race is definable and ends by treating people of defined races as single entities. Old and new racism is socialistic. It classifies people as groups, not individuals. If some Asians did something to some Indians long ago, racists presume all Asians to have done it to all Indians forever. That logic informs SA’s new racist land policy.

Apartheid-style racism is reaching a post-apartheid crescendo. It no longer matters how or when land was acquired.

I am a long-standing transformation advocate. However, racist land seizure is fraudulent thrice over. First, black people do not get what the government takes. As under apartheid, they occupy land without full title. Second, if all white farms are "redistributed", 99% of black people will still get none. Third, the targeted land, says Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti, is white commercial farmland. Its value (about R100bn) is trivial, less than half the cost overrun on one of Eskom’s power stations.

The government takes seriously lefty land experts who, like Verwoerd, oppose black land ownership. Anti-ownership intellectuals seduce policy makers into believing that inferior black tenure is neither inferior nor racist.

A generation after the nominal repeal of racist land laws, a perverse refusal to trust black people with unambiguous ownership persists. In 1991 the Abolition of Racially Based Land Measures Act and the repeal of the notorious 1913 Natives Land Act supposedly buried land racism, yet fabricated excuses persist in favour of apartheid’s greatest travesty — government ownership and control of "black" land.

Light glows at the end of the tunnel, though. Johannesburg’s Alexandra, historically the most important black "township", might become the most important pioneer of nonracial land reform. Land taken from black people under apartheid and inherited by the ANC can be restored easily, quickly and cheaply, but it has not. I am proud to have contributed to land restitution in Alex.

The 20-year process included claims, community forums, demonstrations, petitions, interdicts and hundreds of meetings. "The long-standing legal dispute between the Alexandra Property Owners and government … is over," the Department of Human Settlements declared.

The main problem in Alex, as in most "black" areas, is that there are four times more informal shacks than properties. Politicians tend to be more concerned about the votes of tenants than the rights of claimants, hence their deflection of attention to "white" land, and the lie that whites own nearly all land.

The Alex agreement has four options: immediate full title for "uncontested" land, cash compensation, alternative housing and sectional title units. The overriding principle that claimants should be fully compensated or get full title finally triumphed.

The most idiotic objection to full freehold title for more than 5-million "black" property holders is that the appetite for land racism and white dispossession might subside. By implication, antiwhite lust justifies the denial of black land rights.

• Louw is executive director of the Free Market Foundation

This article was first published in Business Day on 12 April 2017


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